Willow the Wisp

Bundles of Willow

Bundles of Willow

Ah, Saturday morning!

Last Friday, when I returned from my weekly jaunt to Reading, the first thing on my list was a quick spot of DIY. Regular readers of this blog will know that DIY and myself  go together like a horse and marriage, and will not be disappointed to know that my refit of the shower switch in the bathroom took three times longer than planned. At least this time, it wasn’t me at fault but the new switch I bought – which only worked 50% of the time.

On – yes. Off – yes. On – well, no, not even a bit. Off – well, it was already off. On – yes. What?!? Off… yes etc. The novelty wore thin very quickly but after fixing and refitting the old switch, there was a bottle of wine to help numb the pain.

Saturday morning – that’s where this blog really starts. Up with the lark (one that rises about half eight, we have civilised larks by us), I was out to help coppice* the willow that forms an integral part of the wetland system at Denmark Farm, the wonderful conservation centre near Chez Snail. The Eco Lodge (where you will all have a holiday very soon, I hope – look into my eyes, count backwards – ‘I will holiday in the Eco Lodge’) has its own waste water treatment plant – ponds where algae and willow and fish all help to clean the water, all natural, no moving parts (well man-made anyway).

So, the willow absorbs lots of nasties and breaks them down, in the process growing so fast that you can almost see it climbing skywards. And that’s where myself, and ten or so other hardy souls, come in.

The plan is so sustainably cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a Eco-fox. We would learn about coppicing willow, from a pair of master coppicers (OK, I made that word up) and then the self-same teachers would transform into master weavers and use the willow we had cut to teach weaving on the Sunday. See? Eco-fox all the way…

Learning the ropes, er, sticks

Cutting the mustard, er, willow

Paul and Steph, of Willowcraft and Woodlands, taught us everything we needed to know about the types of willow, their uses and how to coppice. Having sat and drunk tea for half an hour, we headed out into the bright November sunshine and started work. Volunteering here is always a joy – but given dry and sunny, it becomes almost a crime not to!






















Where did it all go?


There it is!

There it is!










After lunch and more cutting, all the willow was cut and bundled, ready for the weaving on Sunday. And, to round off the day, Paul showed us an essential willow crafting skill – how to make a wand.

Just like the wetland system itself, and willow in particular, that’s magic!

Gonna make you a star

Gonna make you a star


* To cut down to almost ground level (or hack to within an inch of its life, if its my hedge)










Categories: Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Willow the Wisp

  1. Brilliant! Back in the dark ages I learnt all that and weaving as well! All my baskets had a definite tilt and an unreliable amount of sturdiness. And ruined my fingernails! I admire those who do it!


  2. Multi-tasking eco foxes, my favourite kind ;). There is nothing more gratifying than hacking something down one day then using what you hacked to create something the next. Can’t wait to see what you guys all created 🙂


    • Harvesting, be it food or material, is always the best thing – it connects you back to Earth. Plus hacking stuff is very ‘manly’ and makes me feel all tough and macho (though it ruins my nails!). You should be able to see what they produced on the Denmark Farm site – sadly I wasn’t there for that. Next time…


      • My home town in Western Australia, where I lived for the first 17 years of my life is called Denmark. It’s the very first place that “The Hippies” decided to collonise and call home back in the 60’s and is now a thriving metropolis (albeit teeny tiny) of all things alternative and sustainable. You are right about hacking being great fun. I take great pleasure in hacking, it tends to open things up and give you a better idea of what you are facing. The only problem is that sometimes when you hack you realise that there is a whole lot more hacking to do on the other side! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This takes me back to some very happy memories 🙂
    Mr Night Owl and I used to coppice a lot, when we were much younger, then we would turn the resultant cut willow into all sorts of useful things – it was self-sustaining, and a lot of fun, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being self-sustaining is so brilliant, I don’t understand why people don’t do it more! Too busy with their I-phones I guess, although there’s probably an app for it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true! 🙂

        Alas, we’re unable to do everything we used to do, but still get much satisfaction in doing what we can to keep those huge landfills from having any of our ‘stuff’ in them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Your comment about the shower switch reminded me that we had a spanner acting as a tap on our shower for at least two years.


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